I’ve never given Shia LaBeouf more than a fleeting thought. I am out of the demographic who would’ve grown up with him on Disney’s “Even Stevens,” and the first time I watched anything he was in it was “Holes” due to a friend’s movie pick.
“That kid is gonna be a big star,” he said.
I liked the movie enough, and said, “Uh, OK.”
This was also the same friend who saw Obama speak in 2004 and said, “That guy is going to be the next President of the United States!” I was like, “No way, he just got elected to the U.S. Senate. He’s way too inexperienced.”
The point is: What do I know?
Now, 15 years later, in a hellish pandemic that is sparing no one’s mental health, I have discovered a magic antidote to cope. It’s not getting enough sleep. Or meditating. Or baking fucking sourdough bread.
It’s Shia LaBeouf playing rednecks.
Let me start this by saying I’ve never seen a “Transformers” movie. I know that made him a huge star and bank all those paychecks, but big budget Hollywood action flicks are not my shit at all.
But watching a tatted-up Shia LaBeouf play a white-trash dude looking mangy with a redneck accent? Sign me up.
If you’ve been digging around the dregs of your Netflix, Prime, Hulu, HBO, etc., queues, it’s time to get some serious LaBeouf into your life. These all have the added benefits of actually being good movies, too, with “serious acting” so you can feel like you’re being educated while indulging in your soft-core filth. I’m not going to make you watch any “Transformers” trash, though I might just go back for those, too.
Let’s take a walk through a few of my favorite LaBeouf movies and redneck moments from my quarantine.
1. “Honey Boy” – The gateway drug to modern-day LaBeouf.
I was sick and isolating, waiting for my test results (Covid negative) and scrolling through my newly engaged Prime account when I saw this movie, an account of LaBeouf’s childhood and subsequent adult efforts toward recovery and sobriety. I was more interested in the story than him for sure.
I’ll warn you, this entry point to discovering LaBeouf is not a sexy look for him. BUT you should be intrigued enough by the skills LaBeouf pulls off in this film to want to see more of his work.
LaBeouf wrote the script and plays his own father, a war vet struggling with sobriety overseeing his kid’s career. After getting arrested, the fake young Shia LaBeouf gets sent to court-ordered rehab, where he starts digging into why he is diagnosed with PTSD.
With what you see in the movie — the shitty L.A. motel, junk-food diet, verbal and emotional abuse and more — it’s amazing that the real LaBeouf could put on the bad wig and glasses and play his pops every day, but he does. Apparently, writing that screenplay in rehab just wasn’t cathartic enough.
It’s a good movie that firmly cements the notion that LaBeouf can tell a story (despite his earlier dabbles with lifting other people’s work), and gives a lot of background to his bad-boy behavior and why he was acting out so much.
2. “The Peanut Butter Falcon” – Better than spoonfuls of crunchy, organic peanut butter when you’re high.
From there, my friendly computer algorithm (kidding, they’re not friendly and AI will soon crush us like little ants, according to Elon Musk, but for now here are some other film choices you might like, stupid human!) suggested I might enjoy another fine flick I would’ve passed over: “The Peanut Butter Falcon.”
Holy shit, sad little quarantining dwellers of Planet Earth, see this uplifting, heartwarming little slice of cinematic feel-good heaven right fucking now. It will warm your soul better than a three-day weekend of ultimate hygge buried in Chip and Joanna reruns with Ina Gartner as your own personal chef.
LaBeouf plays a troubled fisherman (nailing his coastal redneck North Carolina accent according to my North Carolina friend) who crosses paths with a young man with Down Syndrome, played by Zack Gottsagen, who has just escaped his group retirement home to pursue his dream of going to a professional wrestling school.
This unlikely buddy movie is absurd as it sounds, but it’s also wonderful. They billed this as a modern-day Mark Twain-type adventure, and it’s filled with pure laugh-out-loud and heart-strings-a-pullin’ moments, which is tough to do.
A redneck LaBeouf is smoking hot despite never changing his dingy white t-shirt the entire time. And the rapport between him and Gottsagen reaches teary-eye levels, especially when they’re shooting the shit around the campfire at night.
This is honestly my favorite thing I’ve seen all pandemic. I watched it twice.
3. “American Honey” – NY Mag‘s Vulture told me I should watch it. You should too.
This is not an easy-to-watch film, filled with hard knocks and depressing scenes with tiny moments of flickering joy and beauty scattered throughout. Like life, no?
LaBeouf plays Jake, the charming co-leader of a merry band of lost white-trash souls selling magazines door-to-door. He’s second-in-command only to his partner, the group’s show-me-the-money leader Krystal. LaBeouf picks up newcomer Star, played by Sasha Lane (her first role ever), in a Kmart parking lot and offers her a gig.
With no other options and a miserable existence, Star joins the kids in their packed cargo van to go tour the Midwest. From Kansas City to the oil fields of North Dakota, the cinematography captures both the best and the most depressing parts of this region, from rolling hills and lush green trees, to bland highways dotted with fast-food joints and truck-stop parking lots. They stay in filthy roadside motels by night, and rove upper- and middle-class neighborhoods by day, seeing what life is like on the other side. It’s the perfect backdrop for kids who are seemingly free to party and live it up, but also trapped in a hand-to-mouth cycle on a road to nowhere, no matter how many fake magazine subscriptions they sell or miles they burn up.
LaBeouf delivers as the door-to-door salesman clearly aspiring to something more in this world filled with despair, as does Star, his new hire and obsession. All he wants is to save enough money for a cabin in the woods some day. Don’t we all, Jake, don’t we all.
Oh, and despite his braided rat tail, the sex scenes are smoking hot.
4. Bonus material on the internets.
Needless to say, after watching a few awesome movies, I started searching for more Shia LaBeouf and quickly got sucked into a pandemic rabbit hole much better than any doomsday scroll. I mean, Shia even adopted a pandemic puppy — how fucking cute is that?
I’ll leave you with this gem that just made me like him even more because a) he can tell a good story, and b) he clearly has a sense of humor about being a jackass. LaBeouf’s retelling of how he got arrested in New York City at “Cabaret” is pure gold.